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Interview: Ashton Sanders Talks ‘All Day and a Night,’ Working on Ryan Coogler’s Next Project & More

Netflix’s latest original movie All Day and A Night starring a powerhouse ensemble cast of Ashton Sanders (Moonlight), Jeffrey Wright (Westworld), Isaiah John (Snowfall) and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (Watchmen) is now streaming on the service! Directed by Black Panther co-writer Joe Robert Cole, this story is about a young man who embarks on a journey of self-discovery after landing in the same prison as his father. 

After watching the film, I had a chance to do a virtual interview with Sanders to discuss the new movie. We talked about what it was like working with director Joe Robert Cole, his character’s passion for music, and much more. He also shares some advice for up-and-coming actors and teases an upcoming project with Ryan Coogler. 

Check out the interview below: 

I hope you and your family are keeping safe during this whole situation. How are you doing today? 

Ashton Sanders: Doing well, man. Thank you for that. I really appreciate that and likewise. 

So this is Joe’s second time directing a film. Can you talk about what it was like working with him and what kind of director he is on set? 

Sanders: I think that it was very collaborative. Joe allowed me to fully explore the character. We did a lot of time trying to understand the narrative that we were creating and just trying to get that across. So it was great, man. It was great to collaborate with him. And you know, it was my first time meeting him and working with him and Jeffrey Wright, Yahya, and all of the other cast members. It was awesome. 

Sanders as Jahkor and Jeffrey Wright as J.D. (Courtesy of Netflix)

And speaking of that, can you talk about what it was like working with Jeffrey Wright specifically? You shared a lot of powerful scenes with him, did you learn anything from him while filming?

Sanders: I think when you’re doing this type of film, you have to kind of curate a certain type of environment in a certain type of set. So that comes first. And it makes it comfortable for the actors to do what they have to do when it comes to doing the heavy scenes that [he] and I had to do together. So it was very different. You know, a lot of the scene work takes place in the prison. And yeah, just being in that environment, it’s kind of something within itself, but it was very centered. You know, he’s a very professional actor, a very great actor. And I definitely learned a lot little things from him that I was able to apply to my performance. 

I thought it was interesting that in this movie, you have somebody else playing a younger version of yourself, like how in Moonlight, you play the teen version of Chiron. So what was that like with Jalyn Hall? Did you get to work with him at all? 

Sanders: Yeah, I didn’t really get to work with Jalyn, which is interesting. It’s kind of one of the same with Moonlight. You know, I only really got to meet Jalyn once or twice, and I just trusted that the work would be consistent. I trusted that everything would be what it was supposed to be

That’s interesting that you guys didn’t actually get to work that much together, but it completely worked out in my opinion. 

Sanders and Shakira Ja’nai Paye as Shantaye (Courtesy of Netflix/Matt Kennedy)

Although the movie is very intense, there are some glimpses of optimism, specifically with your character when he’s talking about his passion for music and the women in his life. Can you talk about that? 

Sanders: Ja is dealing with a lot of hardship. So he’s searching for inspiration, he’s searching for something to pull him out, you know. He kind of feels like he’s just swimming all the time and looking for some land to be on. So, I feel like music is kind of his saving grace, you know? I also kind of feel like the women in his life are kind of a source of optimism for him. Whether it be his grandmother in the film or his mother, or his girl. I think that also comes into play when it comes to, you know, being something to get him out of his state of being.

Another thing I did want to highlight is that you’re 24, and I’m around the same age, so seeing your career take off has been a true inspiration! 

I actually really, really appreciate that. Means a lot. 

Is there any advice you have for up-and-coming actors or people trying to make into this industry? Any valuable lessons you’ve learned along the way from anybody that you keep with you to this day?

Yeah, I would just say to just, you know, hone in on your craft. You have to be a sponge. You have to know what you’re doing, but you also have to be a sponge with every experience. I’d say that everything that I’ve worked on, I’ve been able to take away something from it and apply it so the rest of my work. So it’s kind of like learning along the way while still enjoying it, not taking it too seriously, and being grateful for your blessings when it comes to this type of work! 

So since this is Geeks of Color, we always talk about comic books and movies.  Are you a fan of Marvel or DC?

Sanders: Love the movies, man. 

Have you told Joe to put you in the next Black Panther movie?

Sanders: Not yet, but I’m sure I’ll bring up the conversation sooner or later. I actually just got done working on a Ryan Coogler project. So, hey, who knows man? It would definitely be rad. 

Can you tease anything about that?

Sanders: It’s called Untitled Fred Hampton Project starring myself with Lakeith Stanfield and Daniel Kaluuya. It’s based on the Chicago chapter of the Black Panther Party, and specifically based on Fred Hampton and his murder. So it’s going to be pretty interesting. It’s with Warner Bros. and Ryan Coogler, directed by Shaka King. So that should be coming out pretty soon. 

I want to just say thank you again for taking a little bit of time to sit down with us.

Sanders: Appreciate you. 

All Day and a Night is now streaming on Netflix!

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